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Not a front for a secret organization.
Written by Rob Schultz (human).

Media Monday: iOS Games

This week, let's look at a bunch of games. All played on the iPhone and iPad. 

Star Wars Commander - ★★★☆☆
A Star Wars take on Clash of Clans. I made it to Level 6 before it lost me. The biggest takeaway I have from this game is how not worth playing it feels. And, since I've stopped playing, I've racked up way more points (medals) than I would have by working at it, since waves of randos throw themselves on my well defended but mostly abandoned base.

INGRESS - ★★★★☆
Google does a great job of hitting the facets of freemium games that make this addictive, but it's basically capture the flag with flags that dissolve even if nobody's actively destroying them, as a front for a big data mining operation. I don't regret playing, but there's no end, and I know I'm not going to get as involved as the people hacking the system to do brilliant and impossible things, so level 8 is going to have to be my victory condition.

Defuse Dbomb - ★★☆☆☆
I figured there had to be a game in the app store about bomb disposal, and after trying a bunch of demos, this was the one that seemed the most similar to fun. I thought there would be lockpicking games too, but there's not much.

Smash Hit - ★★★★☆
This is a game about breaking glass things with marbles. Or ball bearings, maybe? Anyway, it's pretty satisfying to smash things, and because I didn't buy the IAP unlocks, I got good enough to play the whole game in single sittings. 

God of Light - ★★★★★ (iTunes)
A really well done puzzle game. I got 3 stars-or-whatever on every level and found all the fireflies. The core game is about reflecting beams of light around, but new mechanics and units are added regularly to keep things interesting. Really nice.

Space is Key 1 and 2 - ★★★☆☆
A port of a simple-as-can-be flash platformer, in which you make your square jump over the rectangles at the appropriate times. I didn't think much of it at first, but I played through all 100 levels (between the game and it's included sequel), and then the next night I did it again.

Forbidden Island - ★★★★☆ (iTunes)
This is a port of a board game to iOS, but that makes it a video game, and I did win several rounds of this game. I beat it playing two characters on my own, and in two player games where we played one and two characters apiece, on various difficulties. Have yet to beat the toughest modes or buy the additional island setups. A solid adaptation.

80 Days - ★★★★☆
I was genuinely surprised to find that I successfully navigated around the globe in only 77 days. I thought all was lost! This seems like a huge game, with so many more possible cities to visit, routes to take, or even things to do in the cities I've already been through. The sheer difficulty of seeing everything makes this seem like the kind of game that would drive me crazy, and might even somehow slow me down from playing more in the future. I have a lot of exploring to do here..

#2,099: Birdman

The Godfather - ★★★★★
So great. So much detail. So much that appears to be window dressing that, to the careful or repeat viewer is actually expertly laid groundwork for later use. Even the little things utterly incidental to the plot are perfect, like some of most realistic children I've seen on film. The construction of a consistent world is amazing, and ten times moreso given the conditions under which Coppola was making it.

I think this movie's famous scenes and lines do it a disservice. It's too easy to fall into the lazy pattern of knowing how it all turns out and watching for the famous bits, instead of taking in the suspense that should grip the first-time viewer or the depth available to the returning viewer.

Please Subscribe - ★★☆☆☆
I think these filmmakers made the wrong thing. This isn't a movie, it's a YouTube playlist. A dozen or so profiles of YouTubers that have nothing in common except that each subject was asked the same list of questions. No themes are explored or connections made. The best of the characters get just enough time to hint at larger, more interesting stories that go unexplained, and the worst soak up the screen time that could have been used to tell them.

The One I Love - ★★★½
I think I liked that everyone's lying to each other. If anything, I wish they'd been more direct and immediate in going behind each other's backs, but I was happy they strayed from the completely safe into something that challenged the premise. The characters promise to keep their behavior dialed down to a 5, proceed at an 8, and I would have liked it even more at a 10. But maybe that would have tipped us from a kind of light dramatic horror to horror-comedy? I've begun to suspect that every movie is a horror movie.

Birdman - ★★½☆☆
I like a real time or continuous shot gimmick in a movie. Or, at least I think I do. Part of what makes it impressive is the sense that a feat is being undertaken by the performers to make it happen, but this is so openly jammed full of tricks that I'm not entirely sure what the point of it is. Sometimes I think filmmakers might not always be using their powers for good...

I'm in favor of making a weird movie, but I think it might be bad form to include scenes expounding on why you can't criticize a weird movie.

The floating camera, the view of what's going on in Rigand's head vs. reality (which I did like), the repetitive sequencing of scenes, the tendency of people and things to appear and disappear, an occasional flying sequence, it all adds up to one impressionistic, dreamlike couple of hours. But, that doesn't mean it's much fun.

#2,096: The Imitation Game

You Only Live Twice - ★★½☆☆
I'm sure I've got a few 007 movies I haven't checked off on my list because I can't really tell them apart. I watched this one because I wanted to see one with Blofeld, who doesn't turn out to spend much time on screen here. What I took away from You Only Live Twice is that it is a ridiculous movie. Large plotless expanses based on shiny things the filmmakers heard about somewhere. Atrocious spying. And a case study in why Bond was originally described as someone who does not use disguises. On the other hand, at least 007 does stuff in this one, so it's still a cut above Goldfinger.

Rampage: Capital Punishment - ★☆☆☆☆
The original was sensationalist, but kind of interesting and had a fun turn at the end. The sequel is smaller in every way. Early on I wondered if the director imagined he was making a real point or was just hiding behind one in order to have some fun with casual violence. Luckily, he included 45 minutes of preachy filler to put an answer to that one.
     
Big Eyes - ★★★☆☆
If not for the famous actors, this would have been made-for-TV. It's basically fine, but you'd never guess Tim Burton was behind it. Come for the scenes of Christoph Waltz as he Christoph Waltzes around with his deliberate diction and slightly unbelievable angry faces, stay for Amy Adams' collection of crazy wigs!
     
The Imitation Game - ★★★½
I liked this better than Big Eyes, and had to think about why. It's probably less authentic to its source material, but it certainly has grander ambitions, with the intertwined time periods. It might just be that I prefer espionage to paintings of sad children. (Although, this movie -does- have sad children...) I understand that folks are upset with what this movie gets wrong about Turing's life, and the 'present day' bits do feel like they're lacking something, but I guess I got by on this one by enjoying the abstraction of code-breaking and problem solving and the doing of secret things. Abstraction, of course, because taken literally, the mechanics of what they're doing don't make a lot of sense.